Trends Research 101

How to harness the power of trends in every project you create

By

Shelly Peleg

Published

April 1, 2021

Illustration by

Darren Shaddick

Every month, week, and sometimes every day, new trends arise, birthing themselves into existence. For the most part, they will appear in your consciousness almost unnoticeably. As designers, new trends seem to just 'be there' wherever you look. It feels especially true when you're a student, inundated daily with the world around you in such a nuanced way, through classmates, teachers, and courses.


But as you leave school and drift away from those daily connections and experiences, you might find it harder to tap into that sense of intuition, your sensitivity to that nuanced reality. The thing you found to be so accessible might suddenly feel out of reach. Luckily, that is far from true. That precious ability is there; you just need to find a way of turning that intuition into a methodological process, a tool you can have at your disposal. How, you ask?


The short answer: understanding the 'science' of trends. The long answer? Learning what goes into the exciting and complicated world of trend forecasting and getting acquainted with practices of trend research and analysis, which you can then translate into methods you can implement into your daily routine.


To help us in this task, we chatted with Content Expert Moran Kadussi. Moran and her team work with designers on a daily basis, brief them on trends, as well as strategizing ways for visual and conceptual trends to be implemented within the team's work. With extensive experience working alongside designers and their intuition for trends, in addition to being a researcher herself, she is the perfect guide for this new way of working.

Wix Playground: Let's start with the basics. What are trends, anyway?

Moran Kadusi: "A trend is a movement: It's when we notice a shift towards something in a specific direction. Trends can be local or global. There are micro-trends and macro-trends. Some trends are just starting, emerging; others are booming - they're suddenly everywhere you look; some are everlasting and have been with us for years and years.

Some trends will take over all walks of life - from fashion to politics, and some will only reign in one specific industry. Some can have an overarching meaning in whatever industry they touch, while others carry different meanings in each industry."


WP: How do you work with trends, and how has it evolved into being part of a Design Studio's DNA?

MK: "In the past, incorporating trends into our work happened intuitively. Designers naturally have their fingers on the pulse, and they are very attuned to what's happening around them. They are mostly 'early adapters,' taking in and quickly implementing what they see around them. What they wear, what they listen to, where they go online: it all ends up being reflected in the work they do and the templates we created, for example. We would see patterns begin to form, things starting to repeat themselves, and we would recognize it as a trend."


WP: How are you leading the trend research and forecasting now?

MK: "Eventually, as much as we loved being led by individuals, trends are a much broader thing to explore. There's a bigger picture: global and multidisciplinary. We realized we need structure and process to make trends even more valuable for us and our work.

I started working seriously with trends after a workshop I attended, in which we learned how to research, collect, and work with themes and global events. Those methods were slowly integrated into our workflow. What started as sporadic side projects is now a trend 'task-force' which consists of a visual expert, designer, writer, and a product designer. We create monthly reports based on our research, which cover all industries: fashion, tech, music, arts, politics, etc. Those reports are shared with the Content team for them to read, get inspired, and implement in everything they do."

WP: What makes trend analysis and research something every designer should be doing?

MK: "As a work practice, I believe it's a designer's responsibility to be in an eternal state of observing and researching. It should be your own priority to have your finger on the pulse constantly.

After all, as a designer, you are shaping this world. It's a great power, and as they say - with great power comes great responsibility. So you better take that responsibility seriously and wholeheartedly.

So yes, I think designers need to research as much as possible - regularly read, watch and listen to a variety of content as much as possible. Inspiration doesn't come out of thin air. You need to be exposed: news (yes!), magazines, art, music. "


WP: We might feel like we know a lot, as the world is at our fingertips these days. Yet, our online lives are eventually controlled by algorithms that narrow our perspective. How can we still make sure we are getting a fuller picture, seeing new and unfamiliar things?

"It can be very challenging indeed. Especially now, during the pandemic, which has made it so difficult to experience things directly, in an unmediated manner. Everything is exclusively online. That makes it even more important to make that extra effort to get out of the digital sphere.

I'd say the first step towards this is becoming part of your surroundings, your actual environment. Check the people around you: even if it's just other friends, neighbors, or family members. See what they care about, what they read, what they listen to, where they go. Step out of your literal comfort zone, be curious and empathetic to people who are not you: people who lead different lives. Be curious about other types of lives.


From then on, it's a matter of pushing boundaries. Think beyond the home, beyond local - think global. If you found something new and interesting - look for it in other countries. What does that type of music or style look like there? Dig in, get to the bottom of things, where they came from, and what they mean. As long as you're curious and open, you're on the right path."

WP: Would understanding trends help designers become better at their work?

MK: "Absolutely, yes! Firstly, it opens your mind. It's so easy to get used to working only in dialogue with yourself: your personal taste, your own likes and dislikes, what is popular at this point in time. And that's almost dangerous for a designer. When you are in touch with trends and research, you're more likely to experiment and get out of your comfort zone and create new, exciting things. You won't become stagnant.

Secondly, it's such an important tool when making decisions. When you are designing and considering different approaches, research is what will eventually help you make faster, more educated decisions. You'll have a reason behind every choice made along the way."

Your guide to working with trends

So now you know why you should work with trends, here is how you can start.

Step 1: How to do research

5 tips to get started with trends research

  • Read the news. Though it can feel daunting, depressing, or boring, it's super important to know what's going on in the world. You don't have to dig into the political implications of events; maybe just look into the visual aspects of it.

  • Look for context. Everything is connected to something else, always. If you noticed everyone wore purple to Biden's inauguration: try and research why that is.

  • Step out of your Instagram feed. If you feel bored or lacking inspiration, go out into the physical world. Call a friend and ask her what she's listening to right now. Visit your grandma and see what she's reading.

  • Don't underestimate the power of pure curiosity. Anything, as little as you can imagine, can lead you in the direction of inspiration and trends. Follow your curiosity and intuition.

  • Values; Audience; Dosage. When working with a trend in a project, check that it's in line with the values, that it matches the target audience, and whether to dial-up or down the dosage of that trend.

Step 2: How to implement trends into design processes:

Moran's advice for designers on working with research and trends they want to implement:

1. Think beyond the industry

When you get a brief and start working on a project, try and think beyond the specific industry you're working in. If, for example, you're creating a fashion e-commerce website, then obviously, as you research, you'll look into other fashion brands, e-comm websites, and related industries such as beauty. I suggest you broaden your research into unrelated fields, see how trends are used there: do certain colors mean the same things? Before you start working with any trend, you need to fully understand it. Maybe that color represents something completely different that you're not aware of?


2. Work with values:

Before implementing any trend into a design, check your content strategy and bring into consideration the values of your project and your target audience. These will help you focus on what to choose and how to use it. Who is this project aimed for? What values should it represent? What type of information is included in it? Answering these questions will help you focus and make the right choices. Maybe you only need small elements from that trend rather than an entire visual identity that's based on it.


3. Find good (enough) reasons:

Lastly, always try and question yourself: can you reason your visual choices and back them up with research and strategy? If the answer is yes, it's a winning design. Research-based design is so much easier to convey. You'll find the presentation aspect of projects much less stressful if you're able to walk through the process and explain yourself; clients are inclined to listen, accept, and get on board with your creation.


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